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Following digital roadmap, Kansas City embraces smart city projects

2011 was a big year for Kansas City; that’s when Google Fiber, a subsidiary of Alphabet, selected the Midwest hub as the first U.S. metro area to build out a new gigabit fiber optic network. By 2014, the area had attracted new tech-oriented business and startups prompting the federal government to fund high-tech workforce training. Then, in 2015, the city adopted a so-called “digital roadmap” that recognized the importance to the city’s future of five key areas: digital inclusion, open government, engagement, industry and smart city initiatives.

One of the city’s showpiece smart city projects is the KC Streetcar, which runs a two-mile route through downtown and was opened for public ridership by Mayor Sly James on May 6. James noted the more than $1.6 billion construction project is at some level of progress in the immediate area following the 2013 announcement. “This is the first step of what I believe will be a truly historic transformation of the entire city,” he said.

But what makes this a smart project? Cisco partnered with the city and Sprint on smart lighting, digital kiosks, a data portal and an intelligent Wi-Fi network deployed by Sprint using Cisco equipment. Some of the 25 kiosks, which provide access to city services among other benefits, line the KC Streetcar route, which also offers continuous Wi-Fi access to riders who take advantage of the free transport solution. According to the city, “Wi-Fi connectivity along the KC Streetcar route will help enable smart lighting, digital kiosks and sensor technology. Smart lighting reduces power consumption and enables better tracking of total energy used. Kiosks at KC Streetcar platforms and locations around downtown provide information about local businesses and events and offer new ways to access city services.”

Since launching earlier this year, the KC Streetcar moved 169,275 passengers in May, 182,248 passengers in June, and more than 233,000 passengers in July.

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